Sounders FC

Young stars lead Americans

SALT LAKE CITY – Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies are too young to remember the last time the United States missed the World Cup.

Now, these two forwards are a big reason why the Americans could close in on a sixth straight berth when they play at Trinidad and Tobago tonight.

“We have a lot of pace. We’re young guys with a lot of energy,” Davies said. “It’s definitely helpful. I think it definitely brings a lot to the team.”

Davies, 23, was born four days before Diego Maradona and Argentina beat Germany to win the World Cup in 1986 – the last time the Americans failed to qualify.

The current U.S. team (4-2-1) has 13 points, second behind Honduras on goal difference, just ahead of Mexico and Costa Rica (both 4-3). The top three teams in the six-nation finals of North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify for next year’s 32-nation field in South Africa. The No. 4 team advances to a playoff against South America’s fifth-place team.

The Americans’ final two qualifiers are next month, at Honduras on Oct. 10 and against Costa Rica four days later in Washington.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley seems to have found his forwards of the future in Davies and Altidore, a 19-year-old who leads the United States in scoring.

Altidore scored his sixth goal in qualifying on a header late in the first half that put the Americans ahead to stay in Saturday’s 2-1 win over El Salvador. He and Davies celebrated with a combination of dance moves and low-fives.

“They give us a physical dimension – the speed the strength – to keep defenses on their heels,” Bradley said.

The young Americans’ promise showed Saturday. In addition to scoring the winner, Altidore had another goal waived off because of a foul.

Davies pressured El Salvador most of the game before leaving with a bruised left calf in the 71st minute.

Altidore rejoined the team last week after a successful debut with England’s Hull.

Davies had a breakthrough season last year in Sweden with 14 goals, and moved this summer to Sochaux of France’s first division.

He had two goals in qualifying, including the only U.S. score in a 2-1 loss at Mexico last month.